Dame Edna's Glorious Goodbye Review - A Funtastic Farewell Tour




Actually, it’s “Dame Edna’s Glorious Goodbye -- The Farewell Tour -- A Meditation on Loss, Gender, Climate Change, Gay Marriage and Ethnicity,” to be exact...

And glorious it is! The gorgeous Dame Edna was in fine form and delivered a fun, frolicking, fantastic, fully-frontal, fabulous farewell to those who were fortunate enough to forage a ticket to the sell-out Opening Night at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles this week.  



The tour opened to adoring crowds and rave reviews in London, upon which The Daily Express’ Neil Norman said, “I almost asphyxiated myself with laughter,” and Mark Shenton of the Sunday Express enthused that Dame Edna is “...a comic, cosmic wonder... I only pray that that this show is not the last we will be seeing of Humphries...but if it is, he is going out on an unmissable high.” 

Unmissable, indeed. The evening begins with a hilarious video a lá E!: True Hollywood Tales is a scandal-filled tell-all about Dame Edna’s illustrious life and career, featuring guest appearances by Hugh Jackman and others.  



Dame Edna’s ability to spar with the audience, completely unrehearsed, is unparalleled, and spar she did, carrying on specific gags with several members of the audience throughout the evening, all based on their spontaneous own words to her. Witnessing her uncanny ability to create comedy out of the simplest comment is worth the ticket price alone. Add to that spectacular musical numbers (complete with exotic fan dancing), a Chorus-Line-style kick-line (complete with dancers in top-hats & tails), and a hilariously spontaneous segment in the Second Act which I won’t give away... Dame Edna is an enchantress, once again. 



The evening was expertly directed by Simon Phillips, with Musical Direction and Onstage Accompaniment by Jonathan Tessero -- and the chemistry between Tessero and Dame Edna was wonderfully evident. 



The Set Design by Brian Thompson and Lighting Design by Aaron Spivey was simple, perfectly gawdy, and elegant all at the same time. The Choreography by Eve Prideaux was extraordinary -- the audience’s smiles were beaming simply watching the four, fantastic dancers: Ralph Coppola, Brooke Pascoe, Armando Yearwood, and Prideaux herself. These performers (who also sang lovely back-up) made me wish to see an entire show of just their work, stat.



But the Dame is no overnight success. Working her way up through Melbourne and Sydney, and eventually moving to London in 1959, Edna did endless nightclub spots and screen cameos, which led to her first show, “Edna Everage, Housewife, Superstar,” a mid-1970’s production on London’s West End. It featured her signature cabaret formula (copied by many, but not always well): songs, monologues, and banter with the audience. A talk show on the BBC, “The Dame Edna Experience,” followed soon after. The late Joan Rivers convinced Edna to bring her show, Edna: The Royal Tour, to San Francisco in 1998. It was a two-week engagement that led to a four-month show, which eventually led to Broadway, where Edna received a Special Tony Award in 2000. 



Dame Edna’s alter ego, Dr. Barry Humphries, AO & CBE, is highly decorated, as well. Humphries was educated at the University of Melbourne, where he studied law, philosophy, and fine arts; he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Australia’s Griffith University in 1994 and a Doctorate of Law by his Alma Mater, Melbourne University in 1993. “AO” signifies that Dr. Humphries is an Officer of the Order of Australia for “services to the theatre,” with which he was honored by the Queen of England in 1982. The “CBE” stands for Commander of the Order of the British Empire for “services to entertainment,” which the Queen herself bestowed upon him in 2007. 


Edna makes the Queen of England laugh. Need I say more? 




And it’s clear that Humphries’ brilliance is not limited to his role as Dame Edna; he starred in musicals and other stage/radio productions on London’s West End; he also an extremely popular landscape painters, his work appearing in private and public collections worldwide. Proving even further versatility, Humphries is married to Lizzie Spender, the daughter of British Poet Sir Stephen Spender, and he is the father of two sons and two daughters.



The Dame’s sparkling wit and mischievous wisdom, combined with her take-no-prisoners comedy hijinks, is truly an evening to remember. Truth be told, I hope to go again. 


Finally, I will say this. I’m aching to tell you about the gladiolas. But I won’t. Just go. You’ll see. 


Maybe I’ll see you there.


“Dame Edna’s Glorious Goodbye” runs through March 15 at the Ahmanson Theatre, generously supported in part by June and Gareth Hughes. Tickets are available online at Center Theatre Group, by calling 213.972.4400, or in person at the Center Theatre Group Box Office at the Music Center. 



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